Ankara to escalate anti-ISIL measures

Ankara to escalate anti-ISIL measures

A bomb that killed at least 30 and wounded 100 in Suruç, a Turkish town by the Syrian border right across the Kurdish-held Syrian town of Kobane, went off July 20. But the journey of those killed had started a day before.  

On July 19, two groups of young men and women made press statements in the Ankara neighborhood of Kızılay and the Istanbul district of Kadıköy, announcing that they would depart for Suruç in order to cross into Kobane to contribute to the reconstruction there.

The group had their breakfast and was to continue on its way following a press statement; the bomb went off at that moment in  the crowd.

Kobane was destroyed by the attacks of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which were pushed back by a resistance (and helped by the U.S.-led coalition forces) led by the forces loyal to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, which is in line with the Turkey-originated, outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) earlier this year.

The young and women were sympathizers of a Turkish socialist group called the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), which is a “segment” of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of the Turkish Parliament; actually, HDP co-chairman Figen Yüksekdağ used to the chairman of the ESP before joining the HDP.

A number of militants from within ESP sympathizers had joined the armed resistance in Kobane together with Kurdish forces and got killed there.

The Turkish government has tightened the security measures along the border for some time, making it more difficult to cross in either direction. 

That was particularly done, following the talks between Turkey and the U.S. delegations in Ankara earlier this month that were lead by the American Special Envoy on ISIL, John Allen, and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Fertidun Sinirlioğlu. The stance of Turkish government regarding the fight against ISIL has actually become tougher since almost a year, particularly against the traffic of “foreign terrorist fighters” using Turkish territory to join ISIL and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria. 

Turkey still does not want to open its air bases, including the main operating base of İncirlik, for U.S.-led coalition jets, saying the toppling of Bashar al-Assad in Syria should be of equal importance as he was the source of all its problems.

But recently, particularly after the June 7 elections, the government has started to change its unofficial “PYD is more dangerous than ISIL” attitude. PM Davutoğlu has openly denounced ISIL as a major threat to Turkey and the National Security Board (MGK), chaired by President Tayyip Erdoğan, did so, too.

The security forces have been carrying out raids on suspected ISIL cells across the country, detaining suspected members and recruiters whose numbers rose up nearly to 500 in the last few weeks.

There were press reports last week indicating that a number of (reports said 6) ISIL suicide bombers could cross the border these days to carry out attacks.

Security officials seem pretty sure that the attack could be an act of a suicide bomber, carried out by ISIL in order to send a message to the Turkish government to not mess with them. 

But the first reactions from the government side indicate that they will carry out even tougher measures against ISIL.

The opposition parties, mainly the HDP and the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), criticize the government between the lines of their condolence messages because of their Syria policy, which they believe got Turkey too involved in the civil war there.